Phil Goff

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Foreign Minister Phil Goff
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Foreign Minister Phil Goff

Philip Bruce Goff (born 22 June, 1953), generally known as Phil Goff, is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand. He also serves as Minister of Justice and Minister of Pacific Island Affairs.

Goff was born and raised in Auckland. His family was relatively poor, and his father wanted Goff to enter the workforce immediately after finishing high school. Goff, however, wished to attend university, a decision that caused him to leave home when only sixteen years old. By working as a freezing worker and a cleaner, Goff managed to put himself through university, gaining an MA (with first class honours) in political science. In 1973, he was Senior Scholar in Political Studies, and also won the Butterworth Prize for law. While completing his MA, he lectured in politics. He also briefly worked as an Insurance Workers Union organiser.

Goff had joined the Labour Party in 1969, the same year he left home, and held a number of administrative positions within the party. In the 1981 elections, Goff stood for Parliament in the Roskill electorate, and was elected. Three years later, when Labour won the 1984 elections, Goff was elevated to Cabinet, becoming its youngest member. He served as Minister of Housing and Minister of Employment.

After the 1987 elections, Goff dropped the Housing portfolio, but also became Minister of Youth Affairs and Minister of Tourism. Later, after a significant rearrangement of responsibilities, Goff became Minister of Education. In the disputes between Roger Douglas (the reformist Finance Minister) and more orthodox MPs, Goff generally positioned himself on the side of Douglas, supporting deregulation and free trade.

In the 1990 elections, Labour was defeated, and Goff lost his own parliamentary seat. While many commentators blamed Douglas's controversial reforms for Labour's loss, Goff said that the main problem had been in communication, not policy. Goff was appointed to a position at the Auckland Institute of Technology, and later accepted a scholarship to study for six months at Oxford University, but eventually decided to stand for parliament once again.

In the 1993 elections, Goff once more took a place in Parliament. Helen Clark, Labour's new leader, made him the party's spokesperson for Justice. In 1996, Goff was part of the group which asked Clark to step down as leader. Clark survived the challenge, and was advised by her allies to demote Goff, but chose not to do so.

Goff retained his seat in the 1996 elections, having elected not to be placed on Labour's party list. In the 1999 elections, which Labour won, Goff accepted seventh place on the party list, but also retained his electorate seat. In Clark's new government, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Justice. He retained this position after the 2002 elections

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Goff is one of the better known members of the Labour Party, and is sometimes cited as a possible successor to Helen Clark. While Clark and Goff differ substantially in their economic policies, they share similar views of foreign affairs, and so are able to work relatively well together. Goff is a strong advocate of putting ethical issues before national interests.

Phil Goff is married to Mary Ellen Goff, and has three children. He lives in the Auckland suburb of Clevedon.

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